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The Purim force will awaken in Elberon
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The Purim force will awaken in Elberon

Young people rehearse as Queen Vashti attempts to give King Ahashverosh a poison apple during the Purimshpiel based on Disney’s The Descendants.
Young people rehearse as Queen Vashti attempts to give King Ahashverosh a poison apple during the Purimshpiel based on Disney’s The Descendants.

The force has awakened at Temple Beth Miriam in Elberon

Cantor Marnie Camhi strikes back in her latest Purim parody, an annual specialty she honed with previous “shpiels” based on The Big Bang Theory, The Little Mermaid, and The Descendants

She gets expert help in choosing the works she parodies. “My daughter is in preschool, so whatever she’s into I use as an idea for a Purimshpiel,” said Camhi. “This year she and her friends were into Disney’s The Descendants, which is all about the children of the villains and heroes from all the Disney movies who end up attending the same boarding school. It works out really well in a Purimshpiel.” 

The made-for-television movie has been showing on the Disney channel.

Following last year’s takeoff on the popular Disney animated film Frozen, which was a hit with congregations across the United States and Canada, Camhi adapted the Purim story to the latest hit movie in the Star Wars series, The Force Awakens, which opened in December. 

So popular have Camhi’s parodies become that other congregations and day schools have been eager to purchase them. Last year she sold 74 of her original Purimshpiels at $72 a pop, with proceeds benefitting Beth Miriam. Money raised from last year’s sales was used to buy prayer books and a tefilla program for the religious school, as well as new instruments to play during musical services.

The Star Wars shpiel is particularly suited for congregations without a cantor or choir; it’s the only one of her works that is not a musical, said Camhi. “I wrote it with the iconic characters from the original movies from the ’70s, but it’s adaptable to include those from the new Force Awakens movie. I’ve sold close to 70 copies of that.”

Like all her shpiels, she said, it can be performed in 30 minutes or less and doesn’t require a lot of rehearsal.

Camhi said the shpiels have generated numerous positive comments from synagogues and colleagues. Fans include one of the stars of The Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik, an observant Jew who plays Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on the hit CBS series. She wrote to Camhi: “I especially loved what you did with the theme song!”

Camhi is already at work on another shpiel, The New Queen on the Block, based on pop songs of the late ’80s and early ’90s. 

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